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QuickBooks Premier Professional Services Edition. We’ve used this QuickBooks product for our back-end financial management, financial forecasting, and our client billing since our Firm’s inception in 2005. It’s obviously not a specific, legal billing package but the Professional Services Edition does allow us to set varying hourly billing rates and enter thorough descriptions of the services that we’re providing our clients. On the billing side that’s the key…explaining in detail to your clients the wonderful, thorough legal services that you’re providing. I get regular compliments from judges and attorney colleagues alike on the aesthetic appearance of our billing statements. Bank accounts are easily synced with QBs over the Internet. Frankly, to be self critical, I’d like to use the product better in terms of the many business planning, tracking, and graphing options that it offers.
Constant Contact. For the last several months we’ve used Constant Contact for our monthly e-mail newsletter that goes out to some 200-300 clients, former clients, and professional referral sources. Effective communication with these groups of people and keeping yourself “Top-of-Mind” with them might be your most important marketing goal as a legal services entrepreneur. This group (clients/former clients/referral sources) is where 80%-90% of your new business will come (and likely increasing as you meet people and have more clients/former clients). We’ve been sending out an e-mail newsletter for some 3 years, previously as a PDF attachment, with less effectiveness. Constant Contact allows us to choose from 100+ e-mail templates to create a nice-looking, graphical e-mail that appears in the body of a recipient’s e-mail. This grabs attention MUCH better than our old “PDF attachment” version plus readers can easily click on articles and offers that drives them to our Website. We can also monitor bounce, receipt and e-mail viewing rates. I haven’t even tried the survey or event marketing options that Constant Contact offers but they look promising too. Our firm hosts 0-500 e-mail addresses for $15 per month (no long-term contract required). Properly reaching your current/former clients and referral sources is the way to rocket your growth EXPONENTIALLY in years 3, 4, 5 (and beyond) of your business. Sign-up for a 60-day trial with Constant Contact now!
eFax. We’ve used eFax exclusively for all of our faxing needs since our Firm’s inception in April 2005. Quite simply an Internet-based fax “machine” is the only-way-to-go in the 21st century. Here’s eFax’s price listing which includes a monthly charge plus a per-page charge. One of these days a “fax machine” may be unnecessary but at least for us in the real estate field having that proof of fax transmission is often still important for contract “Notice” purposes. With eFax, you send a “fax” using the print instruction on your computer and then choose eFax as your “printer” which then opens the eFax interface. Your fax recipient’s information is entered (and is remembered) and easily sent to multiple recipients. Simply, anything that you can get onto a computer and into digital format is faxable (is that a word?). Receiving faxes come to as many e-mail addresses as you like. Both I and my assistant receive our Firm’s faxes wherever we’re working that particular day. eFax does allow you to select your local area code for your fax number. Multiple documents are easily combined into one fax correspondence in a manner just like adding e-mail attachments.
Regus (Office space solutions). We’ve used Regus for new client meetings, depositions, and multi-person meetings for the last 2 years. Regus is a worldwide company that really does a nice job of servicing flexible entrepreneurs who have office needs and want to project a professional image but without the expense and inflexibility of a traditional, single location-type landlord. I’ve just really begun to see a lot of their advertising around Chicagoland…they currently boast of 28 Chicagoland locations. My legal practice is centered in Chicago and the north/northwest suburbs so it’s nice to be able to use a Chicago Loop location regularly plus a couple outlying locations in Deerfield, Park Ridge, and Schaumburg. In my experience, clients WILL HAPPILY choose the convenience-of-location versue your “traditional” single, permanent location with your diplomas on the wall anytime. We use Regus’ free blue, businessworld membership and pay between $18-$28 per hour for a standard office.
HostGator Web Hosting. I’ve used HostGator to host my Firm’s Website (Olsonlawfirm.net) and two blogs (SoloinChicago.com & ClosingChicagoRealEstate.com) for just over 1 year. I previously used 1&1. My change was motivated by HostGator’s superior support for the latest WordPress versions for us bloggers. When I finally got serious about migrating the blogs from Blogspot to their own domains I needed the latest in WordPress support. Granted our Website could use some work, but HostGator does have easy-to-use sitebuilder software to get a basic site up quickly and easily. The back-end of our sites gets managed through a cPanel. I think HostGator’s “back-end” management has been the biggest positive change for me. I love the Webalizer feature and being able to really drill down into our traffic numbers by referrers and traffic by time of day/month. Also, our content is backed-up with one click. Further, the online chat customer service has always been spot-on.
eVoice. I’ve used eVoice for our office telephone answering for more than 1 year now. eVoice is an automated answering software program that allows you to create a personalized greeting for callers and then routes calls wherever you want. Pricing ranges from $12.95 to $29.95 per month depending on minutes and the number of extensions you need. eVoice has been great for us with 2-3 people working from several different locations. Callers to the Firm are greeted with a friendly, descriptive, automated answer but callers can reach myself or our legal assistants with the push of a single button. I think this is a better and more cost effective option than many of the “virtual office” options that charge you each time they answer a call and forward it to your cell phone and I find it more professional than you as lawyer answering your own phone. Yes, it is an automated answering service (gag) but I think that is becoming more and more the business norm. eVoice does not place your callers into some endless loop of automation, rather, with one press of a button they can leave me a voice-mail or get patched immediately to my cell phone. Call me now and tell me how it sounds…312-629-9900.
Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind. If you want to learn about blogging and general online business building, Yaro’s blog Entrepreneurs-Journey.com and some of his coaching programs are the place to go. His Blog Mastermind consists of 27 weekly Internet-based lessons which include text, audio, and video instruction. Blog Mastermind also includes a very useful forum and online community for interaction with thousands of other students. The program works very usefully through initial blog set-up and structural matters to content production, then traffic building, and finally monetization. Blog Mastermind costs $450.
uPrinting. I’ve become a huge fan of this company following recent business card and greeting card purchases. And the issue isn’t merely the quality of their end product but rather it’s their quality online, do-it-yourself design tools on their Website. I was able to create a quality, two-sided business card for $40 (500 cards). uPrinting’s pricing, quality, and design tools made them a no-brainer for our printing needs.